Trust: the glue that binds relationships in the New Digital

In the New Digital era, trust has become an essential ingredient in doing business. Commercial success is founded on trusted relationships with suppliers and partners – and these relationships are powered by the data that connects them. At the same time, consumers must be confident that their personal data is safeguarded and used responsibly. Enterprises work hard to earn the trust of their stakeholders: it’s up to us to take care of it.

Warren Buffet once said: “Trust is like the air we breathe - when it is present, nobody really notices. When it’s absent, everyone notices.” And trust has become a pivotal issue in today’s new digital world. If present, it can drive business success and consumer satisfaction and loyalty. It’s a decisive issue to people the world over. In the United States, 97% of consumers told KPMG that data privacy is important to them, and 87% actually consider it to be a human right.

Today, we stand at the crossroads of a New Digital era. Digital transformation has been progressing steadily for years, powering innovation and change. The global pandemic has further accelerated it: 58% of customer interactions worldwide are now digital, three times more than three years ago. Enterprises are set to be the number one generator of data by 2025. And as the scale and volume of data and digital interactions increase, trust becomes critical to powering our relationships.

Using data ethically or the trust paradox

So, while digital and data have transformed our world, driving new cultural and commercial transformations, public distrust in how data is used remains high. Research shows 68% of American consumers don’t trust companies to sell their personal data ethically, and 54% don’t trust them to use data ethically in general.

It’s our job, as orchestrators of the digital economy, to strike the fine balance between leveraging data and maintaining trust. There is an ongoing challenge to overcome to ensure people trust us, particularly when high-profile data breaches dominate the news headlines. We do not hear so much about the billions of responsible and secure interactions customers have every day with companies around the world. But our social media feeds are full of the bad experiences people have, and the headlines decry corporate scandals and data breaches.

Social media companies are at the frontline of this fight to retain trust with consumers and end users. Globalization has accelerated movements and changes between people, products, services and companies. But even before the pandemic, cracks were appearing in the interdependent digital global economy.

For example, over the last decade or so, social media has been a platform for both democracy and the subversion of democracy. We want to share our personal lives on social media, but we remain concerned about how social media companies use algorithms to shape what we see. Yet, even more than with other industries, our relationship with social media companies is founded on and powered by trust.

Protecting user data in a fragmented world

Rapidly increasing cyberattacks, fueled partly by political and digital fragmentation, are another factor that has shone a spotlight on the need to protect data. The Internet was designed with a uniform approach and a global ambition, but it is fragmenting because of geopolitics. We’re seeing different digital ecosystems emerge in the U.S., Russia, China, and now Europe.

According to Bain & Company, CIOs in Europe have more concerns about data security, governance and regulatory compliance than their U.S. and Asia counterparts. Sweeping new data regulations in Europe mean that privacy is at the top of the agenda, hence the demand for more European cloud infrastructure. In this context, Orange teamed up with Microsoft and Capgemini to build a trusted French cloud, Bleu, based on Azure and Office 365, which is 100% governed by European jurisdictions. Another example is the EU’s Gaia initiative. Both are based on the need for Europe to have its own cloud infrastructure, governed by European laws, and highlight another area where trust is front and center.

Enabling sustainable business with digital

Despite these challenges, digital remains a critical business enabler. In recent times, digital underlined its importance, supporting remote working, protecting supply chains and enabling businesses to continue operating. Orange customer Maersk is a good example of trusted digital in action: in February 2020, the global logistics giant had a capacity for around 4,000 people to work remotely. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, it only took a few days for Orange to enable 44,000 Maersk staff to work remotely. Hundreds of other companies trusted Orange to help them keep the lights on and keep workforces working from home, effectively and securely.

Climate change and how we address it is another area of importance in the New Digital age. By 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials. They have different expectations and motivations and actively seek out socially responsible employers whom they can trust. Two-thirds say they won’t take a job at a company that doesn’t have a strong CSR policy, and 83% say they’ll be more loyal to an employer who helps them contribute to social and environmental issues. So enterprises that want to attract the best talent must have a strong CSR policy.

Creating a better future

Our Engage 2025 plan and our Green Act reflect our commitment to shareholders, employees and customers. They demonstrate that we are part of the solution, not part of the problem. We use digital tools to reduce the emissions of our buildings, our fleet and the equipment we supply – and we’re transparent in our reporting. It’s the right thing to do, and it also translates into performance: companies with a commitment to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) enjoy greater business success.

Orange Business focuses on helping companies earn and keep the trust of their customers, suppliers and partners. As a network-native digital services company, we combine the trusted foundations of an operator with digital skills and services built on top of these infrastructures – and underpin it all with world-class cybersecurity.

Moving forward in the New Digital age, trust will be central to all advances and transformations. Business ecosystems will be built on it, relationships and partnerships will only work if trust is present and carefully guarded. As Stephen Covey said some years ago: “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” As digital and data power more of our world all the time, this statement is truer than ever.

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Helmut Reisinger
Born in Austria, Helmut Reisinger has a Degree in Economics and Business Management from the University of Vienna and a Master’s in International Management. He has more than 20 years’ experience in business markets and solutions.
Helmut joined Orange Business in 2007 to head up Europe and Russia. He is now CEO of Orange Business.